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Cultural Materialism Paperback – July 12, 1980


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--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The most important anthropological statement of the nature and meaning of cultural anthropology that has thus far appeared. (Ashley Montagu, highly acclaimed social scientist, Columbia University Psychology Today)

Harris achieves a standard of theoretical exposition that is rare in anthropology. (Bruce Trigger Science) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Marvin Harris is in the department of anthropology at the University of Florida. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 381 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage Book ed edition (July 12, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394744268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394744261
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,886,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By H. Keith Hamm on September 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Foundational. This book is the core of cultural materialist theory. I lays out in simple language a theory for describing and explaining the complexity that is human behavior and thought. Many have railed against cultural materialism for being too simplistic, for "naïvely" arguing for evolutionary, universal patterns throughout human societies. Harris spent his life fighting for a scientific approach to anthropology and this was his masterwork towards that goal.

He begins by discussing science in general; its beginnings, evolution and application. At the end of the chapter he says something which resonates throughout the rest of the book and his work. This statement provides a window into the character of Marvin Harris like nothing else Ive read. He says, "No other way of knowing is based on a set of rules explicitly designed to transcend the prior belief systems of mutually antagonistic tribes, nations, classes, and ethnic and religious communities in order to arrive at knowledge that is equally probable for any rational human mind. Those that doubt that science can do this must be made to show that some other ecumenical alternative can do it better. Unless they can show how some other universalistic system of knowing leads to more acceptable criteria of truth, their attempt to subvert the universal credibility of science in the name of cultural relativism, however well intentioned, is an intellectual crime against humanity."

Throughout the first part he discusses his theory. Beginning with the epistemological underpinnings of the theory and ending with application he thoroughly explains and attempts to preempt any questions that might arise.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By C. Willer on August 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
Marvin Harris' book, Cultural Materialism, is a must read for any student in the social sciences who intends to address issues of war and peace, environmental decline, and social justice. Written in clear, understandable language, the theory presented is compelling and fully relevant to the most pressing issues of today. The updated edition offers an introduction by Allen and Orna Johnson that "examines the impact that the book and theory had on anthropological theorizing." Compared to today's muddled and often unfathomable social theories-Cultural Materialism provides a practical and useful research approach relevant to any social issue and usable by those working for social change. Don't be put off by the title, the book and theory fully address all aspects of culture and in an evolutionally perspective. I particularly recommend the book and theory to those who work on environmental and social justice issues. Conservation biologists seeking to explore sociocultural issues, especially when addressing conservation planning implementation problems, would be well served appreciating the Cultural Materialist perspective.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book will eventually be recognized as one of the most important of the 20th Century - but not until the 21st Century. In spite of what the previous reviewer said, it does indeed deal with male supremacy - and Cultural Materialism's explanation for male dominance is something that feminists should learn and understand, if they want to do something to end male supremacy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John J. Bosley on April 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
I lost my hardback copy in a basement flood and replaced it with a new paperback through Amazon. It was like welcoming back an old friend, to read the uncompromising materialistic interpretation of culture that was Harris' hallmark. It's not just the book, it's the point of view that counts. An antidote for all sorts of airy-fairy speculations that pop up in our media.
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